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Speak Up for Over-the-Counter Emergency Contraception NOW!

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Submitted by Heather Corinna on Mon, 2005-09-12 16:00

The FDA panel overseeing the issue of making EC over the counter has not only once stalled on a ruling because they have requested "public comment" before doing so, they have now stated they need even MORE public comment. Bear in mind that, to my knowledge, NO drug before has EVER been required a "public comment" period, and since it is the FDA's job to only consider medical and health safety issues, public sentiment that is NOT about those issues should have no bearing on their decisions.

Most of the "public comment" has not only been incredibly misinformed, often intentionally and unintentionally confusing EC with RU-486 (or early abortion), it has come primarily from voices who will not actually USE or NEED EC. In other words, very little comment has been heard from one of the groups in the greatest need of OTC EC, that is, from young adult women. The same women who the FDA now claims do not have the intelligence to comprehend one simple sentence of instruction on how to take the pills -- as in, take one pill now, and one 12 hours later. Not only is this a moot point -- as both pills can safely be taken at the same time, so even an error would be just fine -- it's a pile of rubbish the FDA likely feels they can get away with spouting because they don't expect young women to speak up. Not only is this just another stall tactic, we all know that not only can your average young adult woman easily understand these directions, she's capable of a whole lot more than that.

The FDA is not only putting your health, well-being and essential rights to contraception at risk because of personal beliefs, not medical information, they're passing the buck off on you, stating EC can't be over the counter for ANY woman, because young women too stupid to read a line of text could find a way to get it. In other words, they're trying to pass the buck off on YOU by saying that your lack of intelligence is what is keeping EC from being OTC to all women, rather than their personal and political agendas.

I encourage you to give the FDA what they want in terms of public comment. Write them yourself, en masse. Pass this request around to your friends and relatives. CC us on the email you send, and we'll build a page at Scarleteen to make the letters public (we won't post your email address or your name) to over 12,000 readers each day.

Tell them about yourself and your friends. Not only about why over-the-counter EC is vitally needed among young women like yourself and your peers, and for all women, but about your life, your accomplishments and how those brains of yours are capable of far more than understanding one simple line of text. If you've used EC or know someone who has, tell your story. If you wanted to use EC but could not obtain it easily or in time, write about that. If you had an unplanned pregnancy in your teens before EC was available, and would have used EC had it been, tell your story. Heck: send your GPA or your IQ. Let them know that while they may think you're stupid, you're on to them and are NOT going to let them keep your rights to contraception from you and insulate themselves by insulting your intelligence.

It can be easy to take our rights for granted. However, during the span of the current administration those rights are slowly being chipped away: abortion rights and access, medically accurate and inclusive sex education, access to birth control and reproductive health services have all been taking heavy hits, and if as many of us as possible do not step up and speak up, it's only going to get worse. Reversing these rights is often a long, long process during which the health and well-being of many will suffer greatly. It's our job as citizens here to advocate for ourselves and our communities: sometimes, if we don't do it, no one else will. Don't seethe in silence: speak up. Now.

Here's some additional information to consider when writing your letter:

You might want to point out that:
- Given rape statistics, at least one million women in the U.S., as the lowest estimate, may need EC not because of their "irresponsibility," but because it is their only chance for contraception after sexual assault or sexual coercion. Our culture all too often allows women to be forced into sex by making sexual assault and protections from such a low priority: forcing women into pregnancy on top of that is a strong and clear lack of care and respect for women and our health.
- Women, especially young adult women are at FAR greater health risks from pregnancy than they are from any form of contraception, including EC.
- The majority of unplanned teen pregnancies occur among poor women (often who are not minorities, despite rumour to the contrary). Thus, not only is keeping OTC EC from young women about sexism, it is also about classism, and it creates higher health risks for young women and their children who are more inclined to have those risks already due to poverty.
- If a young woman isn't smart enough to read the instructions for Plan B, how might she be smart enough to rear a child well?

You might want to point out that "public comment" periods were NOT required for:
- Viagra and other male impotence drugs
- the recent resurgence and approval (despite vocal activism against such from women's groups and health pros) of silicone breast implants or saline breast implants, as well as other common products which compromise(d) women's health like hormonal menopause treatments, douches, some commercial menstrual products and the like.

You might want to point out that:
- It is the FDA's JOB to promote and protect the HEALTH and SAFETY of all Americans, which includes women and young women. It is the FDA's job to consider -- only -- the medical and health aspects of any pharmaceutical, NOT to assign personal values or religious beliefs to American citizens and consumers. EC has been overwhelmingly supported by all the relevant and longstanding medical health associations, including as an over-the-counter medication for young women. It can significantly reduce both abortions and unplanned pregnancies, and thus, acts as a great protection for the health and well-being of women and children, not a danger. It has not been shown to have ANY serious side effects. Plan B is medically safer than aspirin.

Here's some info from the FDA on Plan B and its status.
(Note sentences like this "The agency issued a Not Approvable letter because the supplemental application did not meet the criteria for approval in that it did not demonstrate that Plan B could be used safely by young adolescent women for emergency contraception without the professional supervision of a licensed practitioner." Susan Wood, for instance, the FDA Women's Health Director who resigned over this issue, has made clear that statements like this are simply false.)

Here's a piece from the Washington Post about Dr. David Hager's possible influence of the matter, a doctor with a history of telling female patients with profound PMS to pray, and refusing to prescribe contraceptives for unmarried patients, and whose appointment was massively protested, yet he was snuck into the office under the radar.

Here is the American Academy of Pediatrics stating clearly that they support OTC EC access for young women.

Here is a joint letter of reproductive health organizations in support of OTC EC.

Here is information about the suit filed against the FDA over this issue.

Here is the home page for the FDA Office of Women's Health.

You can email Dr. Lester Crawford, the Commissioner of the FDA at: deputy.commissioner@fda.gov
Please CC the letter to Scarleteen for public post at: gimmemyEC@scarleteen.com, and we'll do our part to get your voice out there, loud and clear (and anything but stupid).

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